No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:11 (NLT) emphasis added
We’ve all been disciplined for much of our lives. Our parents disciplined us, sometimes with words, and sometimes with other means and methods that made an immediate and lasting impression. School disciplined us not only in behavior but also in how to learn. If you spent any time in the military, you know what it’s like to experience discipline.
As writers, we are on our own. There’s no Sister Mary Magdalene standing over us, ready to rap our knuckles with a ruler. Mom and Dad aren’t looming over our shoulders, ready to say, “Write 1,000 words or there’s no dessert for you tonight, young man.”
We come out of our writing room and no one asks, “Have you done your homework?” in the voice that rattles the tectonic plates in our chests.
Unless we have a due date from our publisher, we are on our own.
Yep, we have to discipline ourselves. We have to be our harshest taskmaster. We have to grab every precious minute of writing time and write.
No e-mail or Facebook or Twitter. No Instagram or Pinterest or Google +.
William Faulkner is quoted as saying, “I only write when I’m inspired. Fortunately, I’m inspired at 9:00 a.m. every morning.”
We don’t wait for the muse to show up. We drag it kicking and screaming into our writing space. Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
How do we do this? One way is to follow the SMART goals method. SMART is an acronym meaning:
S = Specific.
I’m going to write the great American novel is not specific. It’s a wish.
I will complete the first draft of my novel in one year. That’s specific
M = Measurable
You have to be able to mark progress and achievement. See the example above.
A = Attainable or Achievable
The goal is something you can achieve.
A goal of publishing a novel is not attainable under this concept. There are too many variables you cannot control.
You can control completing the manuscript by a specific time and submitting it to agents and editors.
R = Relevant or Results-Focused
The goal should measure the final result. Not the steps you took to get there. The steps would be sub-goals. To be relevant, we need a measure that tells us we achieved the goal.
T = Time-bound
There is a specific due date for achieving the goal. This provides both tension and a tangible yardstick for measuring progress. The goal of completing my manuscript by May 6, 2016 contains specificity. On May 6, 2016 I will definitely know whether I achieved it.
How have you used goals to achieve specific results in your life?